Mitch Murray knows about water. For more than 30 years, the Linville man worked as a hydrologist at the Florida Water Science Center. It didn’t take long to discover all the rain falling April 19 was trouble. “We had more than four inches of rain in less than 12 hours”, says Murray.
Though now retired, Murray went to work in his neighborhood that morning to survey the impact of the super soaking. Storm debris had blocked a culvert, and there had been significant washout of the apron of the community’s private road where it meets U.S. 221. While Appletree Ridge residents maintain that road, Murray says it was impossible to tackle the problem while rapidly flowing rainwater was still rushing across U.S. 221.
“We have several residents who receive daily medical care. One patient is undergoing chemotherapy, where routine access from our road is actually critical,” added Murray.
He placed a call for help to the N.C. Department of Transportation, and Avery County maintenance engineer Jerry Combs picked up, who Murray describes as quite calm, “following what must have been a difficult rainfall.” NCDOT mobilized. “With what I’m sure must have been an enormous workload in front of DOT employees, Mr. Combs was able to deploy staff quickly, including utilization of substantial excavating equipment,” says Murray.
“That particular day was rough,” says Combs. “We had crews working all through the night, keeping culverts open and trees out of the roadways. When I received the call, I immediately dispatched a crew to that location. Having citizens blocked in, especially with medical conditions, has to be handled immediately.”
Murray and his neighbors praise Combs for the rapid response. “We here at Appletree Ridge are very appreciative knowing civil servants like Mr. Combs work for the state, says Murray. “We are very thankful for the NCDOT’s selfless service to our residents, especially in times of emergencies.”
Combs says it’s all part of the job. “Answering a request as soon as possible and keeping our roads safe is the goal of all our employees throughout North Carolina.”